In 2009, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater charged pharmacist Jerome Ersland with murder after Ersland killed an already immobilized robber. Prater noted the pharmacist exceeded his authority to defend himself and acted as “judge, jury and executioner.” Is our district attorney taking a cue from Ersland in filing charges against members of the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board for violating the Open Meeting Act?
We need more attention paid to the Open Meeting Act; seeing interest in enforcement would be refreshing if Prater was pursuing a matter not so near and dear to Prater. If Prater disagrees with decisions of the board, he should argue his case before the board and the public. But finding technicalities to mount charges against board members when their real offense is making decisions with which Prater disagrees is a dangerous overreach like that of convicted murderer Ersland.
Prater's action invites serious consequences. It weakens support for the Open Meeting Act if prosecution becomes a tool for political retribution rather than a means to promote transparency. This may lead informed citizens called to jury duty to listen more favorably to any defense claim of prosecutorial bias. This could also further cool whatever support exists for a new county jail.
The district attorney does not and should not control the Pardon and Parole Board. If Prater doesn't or won't understand this, and continues to act like a bully, he needs to go.
Tom Daxon, Oklahoma City
Daxon is a former state auditor and secretary of finance under Gov. Frank Keating.